§ 25. Captain W. Elliot
asked the Minister of State for Defence if the Royal Navy has completed trials with the Harrier; if a requirement for these aircraft has been stated; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Ian Gilmour)
I cannot at this stage add to the reply which I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) on 25th November.—[Vol. 826, c. 417–18.]
§ Captain Elliot
Is my hon. Friend aware that that is not a very satisfactory answer? Does he not agree that unless the Royal Navy shows an energetic and keen interest in this aircraft it will be difficult for foreign defence ministries to obtain money from their Governments to place orders for it? Can he say whether an improved aircraft is being developed?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I can understand my hon. and gallant Friend's impatience but, as he will appreciate, the Harrier is designed as a ground attack aircraft and, therefore, some modification would be needed to exploit its potential in maritime operation. I assure him that the Royal Navy is showing its usual energy in this matter.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Will my hon. Friend, following the very successful trial on H.M.S. "Ark Royal" in the summer, try to encourage the Royal Air Force to employ the Harrier in close-support operations to back up amphibious assaults—in other words, on carriers such as "Bulwark", "Albion" and "Hermes"?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I would point out to my hon. Friend that the Royal Air Force needs no encouragement in this matter and is a very good judge of capabilities and requirements.